Why PR is Essential to Driving Your Brand Campaign
If you’re not convinced, just ask Mark Zuckerberg.
After his lackluster performance before the United States Congress, you can bet that CMOs will be voting with their budgets this year, as unreliable Facebook metrics, fake news and poor transparency have brands questioning their spends on the platform.
And adding insult to injury, we live in an age where any small misdemeanor (or worse) can be magnified within the media in a matter of seconds. So it’s no wonder that despite their best efforts many brands, like Facebook, have lost the trust of their business partners and users.
Think of it this way: platforms like Facebook are enjoyable if that’s your thing. But being able to depend on it? It’s no longer a brand people trust.
How did they lose this trust? How can they get it back?
Whether you’re in a branding crisis like Facebook, or are about to rebrand your company, a central key to getting the outcomes you want is to include effective public relations (PR) campaigns that complement all of your branding efforts.
With Facebook, they failed to properly get positive brand messaging out prior, during and after their Congressional appearances. They weren’t fully prepared.
But Facebook isn’t alone.
Over the last two years, we’ve seen many companies rebrand themselves to keep up with their current customers and deliver a fresh take to draw in new ones. Some have done it really well (Old Spice, McDonald’s), while others have tripped (Harley Davidson, Macy’s).
At the highest level, rebranding is repositioning a brand with new messages, products, values, and in many cases, a new identity. It can be a long, arduous process often involving executive battles over logos, words and vision.
Essentially, the success of a brand is driven by how well it’s positioned for its target market and then how that positioning is communicated. Yes, splashy advertising campaigns and creative marketing strategies are always key pieces for the branding puzzle.
But you should also make sure PR is in the mix or you might end up missing the mark on your business objectives.
Here are just a few quick ways PR can help you with branding/rebranding:
1) Build and Maintain Credibility: if you are in the process of rebranding your company that the world has known for decades, people will naturally be skeptical.
PR can help by laying the proper groundwork before, during and after your launch with the right strategy to ensure you are communicating credible messages and continue to build the right reputation.
Further, the essence of good PR is having someone else talk about your brand rather than the company itself. Third-party endorsements, whether implied or explicit, are often very effective, sometimes more so than paid media. It helps when the publicity results include proof points that reinforce a brand’s proposition or identity. A testimonial is an obvious example, but third-party endorsements can also come with content sharing and social media community-building.
2) Tell stories: ok, storytelling is an overused term, but at its core, it means packaging information into meaningful and entertaining narratives to forge stronger emotional bonds with business partners and customers. And remember, the most persuasive stories are often closer to home; they can be business partner or customer testimonials and employee exploits.
3) Manage brand crises: Certain PR functions, such as talking points development, media training and crisis management, play an important role in branding.
Just take a quick look at the recent brand challenge facing UPS.
Amid negative brand awareness following package mishandling, UPS quickly initiated a crisis PR campaign to assist their brand outreach.
In particular, UPS proactively decided to quit asking consumers what it could do for them directly, and instead focused on asking what it could do for its employees.
The answer was a year-long campaign called Be the Brand, aimed at educating and reminding drivers that they are the face of UPS day in and day out. UPS made use of Twitter and YouTube to promote the campaign.
With improved delivery rates, higher customer satisfaction and a more positive view of the brand, UPS not only proved it could deliver for its customers, but proved it could deliver for its employees.
4) Focus Executive Leadership: indeed, it all flows downhill. Mr. Zuckerberg’s confused performance before Congress last week was proof enough of Facebook’s deep-rooted brand issues.
As a CEO, he came off as unfocused by failing to distinguish what Facebook’s brand stands for now, following the numerous advertising and political scandals over the last two years.
Instead of using this PR opportunity (it was!) to foster trust to drive growth and make people love Facebook again, Mr. Zuckerberg evaded answering questions on such key issues as user privacy, partner efficacy and Facebook’s business model.
But if armed with a clearly defined PR campaign, Mr. Zuckerberg would have been able to address its failed corporate culture with discursively strong leadership, hint at a dynamic rebrand identity that balanced continuity and innovation, and enhance stakeholder relations by demonstrating a better handle on Facebook’s internal conflicts.
Simply put, don’t allow your brand to experience the same crisis as Facebook. Strong brands realize that business partners and customers seek not just to buy something, but also frequently to buy into something.
Adding a strong PR campaign to your branding efforts will allow you to take your brand beyond insight to know and understand stakeholders on a personal level.
That’s because when you complement your branding efforts with effective PR, you can directly shape authentic stories that are relevant to your stakeholders, allowing you to connect emotionally and build brand trust.
If you don’t, then you’re simply inviting the thunder and rain to start. And then the best you can do is hope things work out.
There is indeed a chance your brand may survive without effective PR support, but if it does, it will be luck.
And luck isn’t leadership.
Don’t forget your umbrella.